BALTIMORE — Francisco Cervelli turned on the final pitch John Means threw on Tuesday and sent it into the left-field seats at Oriole Park at Camden Yard. As he rounded third base and made his way home to score the first run of the Miami Marlins’ first game in more than a week, he pointed to his teammates, kissed his right hand and pointed to the sky before getting air high fives and taking part in a socially distanced celebration when he returned to the dugout.
It was a moment of euphoria for a team that needed one, a return to something as close to normal as possible for a team that needing something as close to normal as possible.
The fact that the home run, along with a strong performance from starting pitcher Pablo Lopez in his delayed season debut, sparked the Marlins to a 4-0 win over the host Baltimore Orioles to begin a three-day, four-game series made it even sweeter.
As a reminder: This is a team did not play a single game last week as it dealt with a COVID-19 outbreak on their traveling party that infected 18 players and two coaches (granted, the outbreak came at least in part because the team was lax at times on the league’s health and safety protocols).
This is a team that had 17 new players joined their roster on Tuesday, including seven who weren’t part of the team for any portion of spring training or summer camp, four in-house prospects who had yet to make their MLB debut and a few players Marlins manager Don Mattingly hadn’t even met in person before the game.
And this is a team that wasn’t able to show up to the ballpark Tuesday until about 6 p.m., 95 minutes before the scheduled first pitch, as they waited for a few of their daily COVID-19 test results from Monday to come back after being deemed inconclusive the first time around. The game was delayed 40 minutes as a result.
None of that ultimately mattered when the Marlins (3-1) stepped onto the field Tuesday.
Cervelli cracked open scoring with his 369-foot home run that just cleared the fence in left field.
Lopez kept the Orioles (5-4) at bay over five dominant, scoreless innings. It was Lopez’s first appearance against live hitters since the Marlins’ exhibition game against the Braves on July 22. He tied a career high with seven strikeouts — all swinging — and only gave up a pair of singles, both to Austin Hays.
The Marlins added a pair of insurance runs in the sixth. Jon Berti drove in Jonathan Villar from second base with an RBI single to center field. Berti scored three batters later following a Corey Dickerson double, Brian Anderson walk and Logan Forsythe groundball that was misplayed by Orioles third baseman Renato Nunez.
Jesus Aguilar capped scoring with a solo home run — his third in four games — in the eighth.
The bullpen took care of the rest. Four scoreless innings from James Hoyt, Richard Bleier, Brad Boxberger and Brandon Kintzler. Two baserunners allowed. Four strikeouts.
Monte Harrison, making his MLB debut by starting in center field and batting ninth, struck out all three times he went to the plate but made a sliding grab to rob Pedro Severino of a hit and end the second inning.
©2020 Miami Herald